Making the rounds from Market Hill to local shops around town
Driving down Highway 237, farmland extends as far as the eye can see. Bright green fields are dotted with black and brown cows and iconic Texas longhorns who seem not amused by this biannual spectacle known as Texas Antiques Week.
A landmark on our way to Round Top is St. Martin’s, the world’s smallest Catholic Church, worth a stop for a quick photo op. Continuing onward, we know we’re headed in the right direction when we see hundreds of white tents on both sides of the road and thousands of people on foot. Soon, we see the sign: “Round Top City Limit Pop. 90.” Ashlee and I make our way to Market Hill, our home base for the weekend. She is assigned to shoot photography for all 18 vendors of the spring show. This is her first time in Round Top and only my second. My job is to observe, to meet people, to participate in the local culture, to immerse myself in the experience so that I can write about it. (Not a bad gig!)
Pulling into the parking lot at Market Hill, it is packed, as cars continue to come and go. We luck out and snag a spot on the front row, right outside of The Paul Michael Company showroom, an 11,000-SF space with beautifully appointed vignettes, displaying a unique mix of traditional and contemporary, old and new, soft and hard, sleek and rustic. Moving through the space, there’s a large selection of animal hides, rugs, pillows, mirrors, original art, sculpture, furniture, and even jewelry. I spy one my favorite Paul Michael Exclusives, an agate accent table. We could spend the entire day in Paul Michael’s showroom, but we’ve got work to do.
We step out into the breezeway and head for the restaurant. It’s lunchtime, and there’s already several dozen people lined up and going down the lunch line, which is moving along nicely. On today’s menu: Burgers, burritos, oven-roasted potatoes (my favorite!), salad, and beans – take your pick. Ashlee and I make our plates, and I order a glass of wine (I am immersing myself in the experience!). After a bite to eat, we pop into each vendor booth. A few of them recognize me and remember me by name from the previous show. We start at Don & Marta Orwig’s and view their impressive old signs, then Demir’s booth, Nomadic Trading Company, to view his massive collection of antique rugs. We continue in this way for most of our day. Market Hill becomes our hub, and it’s the hub for many others – seasoned shoppers and newcomers alike, locals and international travelers.
It’s in little moments like this one, when you stop to admire the beauty of this place, that the magic of Round Top reveals itself to you.
Staying at a friend’s private ranch, we decide to mosey along and head that way – but, first, under a cotton candy sky, I ask Ashlee to take my portrait in the Texas bluebonnets and the Indian paintbrush blanketing the ground. It’s in little moments like this one, when you stop to admire the beauty of this place, that the magic of Round Top reveals itself to you. That night, we sleep deeply. Our alarm clock is a cock-a-doodle-doo, and an occasional moo from the cows in the pasture. It’s time to do it again. Day two, here we come.
While we spend much of our time at Market Hill, talking with vendors, sharing good food, wine and conversation, and listening to live music in the evenings, it’s important for us to see what else is out there and to support local shops, the ones that are still here when the show isn’t. Among our favorites, Curate by Stash, contains a beautiful selection of women’s clothing in fine linen, silk and cotton, as well as accessories like leather bags and hats, perfumes and palo santo, cards and postcards.
We walk next door to Townsend Provisions – I want to show Ashlee the boot room! – and on the front porch is a metal bin filled with ice and small glasses of bubbly with a sign that reads: “El guapo rosé cordial and champagne. Please help yourself.” We oblige and head inside. The darling shop is stocked with T-shirts, tea towels, and other fun gifts. The boot room is in the back, and it’s something to behold – it’s the largest and finest collection of cowboy boots I’ve ever seen. While we’re on the main square, we stop by Prost, a tiny wine bar in a stone cottage with outdoor seating under a big oak tree.
Next, we venture into Lark, another lovely boutique. Stepping inside, the first thing I notice is that it’s quiet, a nice change of pace from the bustling shopping scene outside. Vintage barware, books, playing cards, candles (including Tatine!), and jewelry are among the things you can find here.
Our last stop is Ettienne, a light-filled shop with a very well-curated selection of kitchen accessories – things I hadn’t seen back home in Little Rock, Arkansas. Ashlee selects reusable bees’ wrap food covers, and I get an ice tray for making that perfect ice ball in a good Old Fashioned. Another good day in the books.
We … sipped rosé and sampled hors d’oeuvres, bathed in the sunshine, listened to a funk orchestra, feasted in a field, cozied up around a fire, and lingered long into the evening until the moon and stars shone bright enough to light our way home.
The next day is what can only be described as a wonderful dream we had, in which we went to a fantasyland called Rancho Pillow, made headdresses out of pipe cleaners and plastic flowers, sipped rosé and sampled hors d’oeuvres, bathed in the sunshine, listened to a funk orchestra, feasted in a field, cozied up around a fire, and lingered long into the evening until the moon and stars shone bright enough to light our way home. In reality, this is Rancho Pillow, a whimsical boutique hotel situated on 20 acres where anything goes. Proprietor and high priestess Sheila Youngblood is your host. All are welcome to eat, drink and be merry – and, most importantly, to be yourself. What Sheila facilitates is a space where real connection can happen, because when you are invited to be yourself, you can be seen by others. This is how she has created a vast, cosmic community of fans, followers, and dear friends. Those in her orbit (us included!) will continue to gravitate back to her and to this place every spring and fall.
We’ll be back in Round Top in the fall, and we’re already making a list of other places to see and things to do. For a town this tiny, it’s hard to fit it all in. But you know you can find us at Market Hill.